Do Your Grant Budgets Tell Your Story?

Grant budgets can be one of the most intimidating parts of writing a grant application. Many of our clients struggle with this part of the process. The passion you show in the grant narrative describing your mission, programs and the outcomes you help families achieve every day is harder to show in your financial story.  So how do you write a grant budget that tells your organization’s story in numbers instead of words? Start by asking yourself the following questions:

Can a funder review your budget and understand it quickly?  Is it easy to read, labeled well, and clearly a part of your larger agency budget?

Funders often review hundreds of grant applications, so be clear. Some funders aren’t as comfortable with financial reports as they are with the narrative, so simplify your grant budget.  Leave in enough detail to show a full picture of your revenue and expenses, but not every line item needs to be included. Have someone who doesn’t know the details of your organization review the budget and give their feedback.

Is community support from individuals, other funders, or special events visible in your grant budget?

You don’t want your grant budget to only include a small portion of the revenue your organization earns. You want to list other foundations, individual or event support that you’re planning to include. This demonstrates you have some financial skin in the game, along with support from many donors and funders. Most funders don’t want to be the lone supporter for your work, funders like to fund together.

Can the funder tell what their money is actually going to be used for?

Funders often like to see exactly how their money will be used. This also shows that you’ve carefully reviewed program needs and decided the best way to utilize their support, while taking into account any limitations in the type of funding/usage of funding that they’ve specified. And it makes reporting easier at the end of the grant period.

Are the strategic planning and action steps you’re taking as an organization reflected in the budget?

Consider expenses that help show the funder that you’re working to increase your capacity, improve the way you serve the community, or increase fundraising and be sure to include those.  If you’ve had some short or long term financial losses, explain these in a quick note so the funder understands. Losses are ok, they happen, but you need to explain the reason and have  long term goals and objectives around raising enough money next year to avoid the loss again, or a long term plan around the loss/cash reserves/savings  that are a part of your strategic goals.

Still feeling a little intimidated? Then feel free to give Support KC a call and we’ll help you find new ways to better tell your organization’s financial story.


For the benefit of the nonprofit sector everywhere, we wanted to provide resources for ways we can continue to operate and grow within this era. And once social distancing begins to fade, what lessons can we take from this to improve our operations permanently. Come back often for more updates.